When we talk about graduate school, especially at elite institutions, we inevitably talk about stress. But Seeples are unique, and so are their sources of stress. Read-on for some of the most common ones, and their cures:
- Not having enough money: Refer to my “Managing A Student Budget” post back in February 2016. You may feel poor now, but you won’t for long, and there are ways to deal with the costs of a SIPA education and life in New York. Take advantage of cost-managing resources (campus and off-campus), try finding additional sources of income, and manage your expectations.
- Being homesick: See my post on conquering homesickness. From immersing yourself in work, to making new friends and exploring New York, to connecting with your roots and taking trips home when you can, there are countless ways to mitigate the painful effects of being away from home.
- Feeling overwhelmed: Take it easy, or rather, take it one activity/task/day at a time. SIPA can be a lot to swallow, between the academic, the professional and the social, but you wouldn’t have gotten in if we hadn’t believed you could do it, and thrive! There are campus resources available for help, from academic support in OSA, to counseling at Columbia Health. Reach out if you feel like you’re drowning, there’s always a solution!
- Having your order messed up at (insert café): Be it Alice’s, Artopolis, Nous, etc., we have all had our share of “I asked for a pistachio muffin and a hot latte, not a cold pistachio latte and a coffee-flavored muffin!” moments. It can be particularly stressful when you’re rushing to class, or have a long line of people behind you. Be nice (try! I don’t always succeed, especially in the face of repeated “offenses”), explain your order again, and be patient while the staff gets it together. Or, if you’re truly at wits’ end (like me), ask for your money back and leave empty-handed. Sometimes it’s a relief to just step away.
- Administration Woes: Sometimes it’s the student worker in OSA who doesn’t know the answer to your question, or a mistype in an official document you had requested. Mistakes happen, it’s life, and nobody (not even Ivy League schools) is perfect! So take a deep breath, and go through the same steps as for # 4 above. Since leaving empty-handed is less realistic than for # 4, try your best to work with the administration to resolve your issue. Help them help you! Not only will they be grateful for your professionalism, patience and resourcefulness, you will also likely get the problem solved faster!
- Professor Woes: The professor didn’t clarify an assignment, or didn’t provide resources to find course readings, or instituted a policy you disagree with/which has the potential to harm your academic performance (such as the dreaded “no laptops” policy). Dialogue is your best friend! Talk to the professor, in person, if possible. Explain your needs, and your position (sometimes professors can be unaware of these), and ask if they can either 1. Change the policy or 2. Make an exception. For e.g., someone in my classes had a documented disability, but, due to miscommunication from the appropriate office, the professor never found out about it, and banned laptop use in class. After the student explained that he was unable to take notes by hand, the professor made an exception in their case. Likewise, when I told one of my professors a book on the syllabus was not available in the library (and was quite expensive to buy), she lent me her copy, and later put it on Reserves in the library for the course. Speaking out can sometimes help your peers, and generations of students who come after you.
- Having to buy things you can get for free: This applies to many items, from your graduation caps and gowns (my undergraduate loaned them to us for free, for the graduation ceremony, and at SIPA, I am borrowing them from a SIPA alumna who bought them), to books (professors may recommend that you buy them, but you are in no way obligated to! You can also borrow them, read them at the library, or find them online, if they are available), to materials (such as the guide for Professional Development course – it is really just an introductory guide on how to write resumes, cover letters and the likes, and you can either find that information online, or borrow the guide from a second-year SIPA student. You are required to bring it to one session of the class, but it is barely used).
- Housing Woes: You have rats. You roommate plays the saxophone at 3 AM. There is no hot water. The elevator is broken. Talk to Columbia Housing, and seek other resources within Columbia and SIPA. Even if resources are not immediately available, people may have information that can help you. Another SIPA friend of mine had to move out from her apartment in a matter of weeks because her landlady was apparently renting out the apartment illegally. She was casually talking to one of the Deans about it, and they happened to know someone who was looking to sublet their apartment for the year, so she moved into a new building that same week. SIPA/Columbia are a vast network, and this network can offer a multitude of solutions if you reach out.
- Stressing about unnecessary things: If # 4 is a genuine source of stress, and you nodded in agreement, instead of just rolling your eyes and scrolling down, then, in Ron Weasley’s words, you need to reassess your priorities! :))